Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I understand, this a little late, as Opening Day was Thursday, and the Red Sox didn’t look so great Thursday even though they are a part of this Top 6.  But I figured I’d finish this series since there’s only one article left.

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 MLB preseason power rankings.  This season, you could argue the Super Seven that was discussed a few years back still exists, except with different teams.  The Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees have remained elite, and despite declines by the Nationals, Indians, and Dodgers (probably) , new powerhouses in this league have arised.  The Braves should be regular contenders now, the Cardinals could make a run with 1B Paul Goldschmidt here for the long run, and the Phillies should be competitive with Bryce Harper.  But Philadelphia isn’t quite on the level of these other teams.  So unless the Dodgers do stay elite after all, I think the Super Seven will become a Super Six.  I will be discussing those six today and pointing out the Achilles Heel of each team. Click the links below for other articles in the series (I will add them as I post them):

 

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2019 MLB Preseason Power Rankings Series:

Ranking The Teams #30-25, My Version: The Bottom of the Barrel

Ranking The Teams #24-19, My Version: Who will have to Wait till Next Year?

Ranking The Teams #18-13, My Version: Who else Misses out on Playoff Contention?

Ranking The Teams #12-7, My Version: Who has Playoff Chances?

Ranking The Teams #6-1, My Version: Super Six?

I also released my 3rd annual preseason Baseball Bits!

 

6. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals

The Case for the Cardinals

The Cardinals haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, sure. But the veterans they kept around from their last playoff run, like Matt Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Yadier Molina, are still reliable contributors. They have also boosted the team with younger talent, including SP Jack Flaherty, OFs Harrison Bader and UT Jose Martinez, and SS Paul DeJong. After adding star in Goldy, the Cardinals have the tools they need for contention. But how far can they go in such a tough division? They will have to get past their division rivals that are also contending, the Cubs and Brewers.

The Achilles Heel

The Cards’ rotation looks alright and its young core will keep the rotation elite for a long time.  But right now they lack an ace.  I don’t believe they can be a World Series contender without one.  Whether they need a trade to find an ace or someone steps up as time passes, this could hold them back from serious contention and should be priority #1 for GM Steve Keim.  Maybe Martinez could be a good trade piece now that 1B Paul Goldschmidt is on board.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in NL Central

5. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

The Case for the Red Sox

The defending World Series champions had a relatively quiet off-season. They did retain most of the team from 2018 that won 108 games. But the bullpen has been their biggest issue, even with Craig Kimbrel. Without Craig Kimbrel, there is even more pressure on the rotation to succeed. This is especially true regarding Chris Sale and David Price. After Sale’s extension, both will be expected to to shine every start in order to be worth the money. Each start costs about $1 million dollars. Regardless of this pressure, the Red Sox should at least secure a Wild Card spot if they can’t beat out the Yankees in the AL East. They are still one of several powerhouses in the league.

The Achilles Heel

With Craig Kimbrel on the way out, the closer role is up for grabs.  But if you look at the active pitchers on the roster, it’s hard to imagine any of them as a consistent closer.  If the Red Sox wanted to repeat, they would’ve invested more in this bullpen rather than focusing so much on the rotation.  They need to add a closer unless Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, or someone else steps up soon.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 2nd in AL East

 

4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves

The Case for the Braves

The Braves’ rebuild began to pay off last season as their younger players broke through. This off-season seemed quiet, but they filled a gaping hole at third by adding Josh Donaldson. They also brought back OF Nick Markakis, and they have reportedly been targeting a reunion with CL Craig Kimbrel. This small series of moves could make a big difference in Atlanta. These moves, alongside development of OF Ronald Acuna Jr. and 2B Ozzie Albies among other should transform the Braves from solely a division contender into a World Series contender. The Braves are my World Series winner this year. I expect 1B Freddie Freeman, Albies, Donaldson, and others to combine to make for one of the best lineups in the league.

The Achilles Heel

Health is definitely a concern, especially considering the fact that Atlanta will start the 2019 season with two starting pitchers on the IL.  Donaldson is also injury prone, and if he goes down, Johan Camargo is the next best option at third base.  I don’t trust Camargo as a starter.  If the team stays healthy in the long run, they could be serious contenders.  Otherwise, they could be in a bit of trouble.

Projected Finish: 93-69, 1st in NL East

 

3. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

The Case for the Cubs

The Cubs may have been quiet this off-season, but a healthy Yu Darvish will boost the rotation, the bullpen has plenty of depth despite questions at closer, and the lineup is looking pretty solid. Their decision to move Javier Baez to shortstop full time and put Ben Zobrist at second is very smart, as SS Addison Russell was inconsistent and had some character issues. The Cubs have dominated in the National League ever since their World Series winning year in 2016, but with a health a concern and the division getting tougher, will the Cubs be able to keep up the good work?

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs were unable to do much this off-season, and they could have used another outfielder.  LF Kyle Schwarber and RF Jason Heyward are viable starters, but they are very streaky and inconsistent.  Albert Almora Jr. is the best option in center field.  Chicago should have added another center fielder to start over Almora some days and fill in for Heyward and Schwarber during slumps.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in NL Central

 

2. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

The Case for the Yankees

After pairing new slugger Aaron Judge with Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees underperformed in 2018. Yes, they made the playoffs and won 100 games. But they were overshadowed and eliminated by their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox. This year, the Red Sox will be without their star closer, while the Yankees fixed up a problematic rotation and built one of the most stacked bullpens in history. This will allow the Yankees to propel past the Red Sox and win the AL East. But in Boston and New York, it’s all about championships, and the Yankees aren’t will have to work for a World Series victory, even with the stacked roster.

The Achilles Heel

The Yanks have some nice pieces in their infield.  But if Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird fail to stay healthy, they are left with D.J. LeMahieu as their best infielder.  Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have not reached their prime yet, and Luke Voit must still prove that 2018 was not a fluke.  So I’m a bit concerned in terms of infield depth for the Yankees.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st in AL East

 

1. houston-astros Houston Astros

The Case for the Astros

The Astros are two years removed from their World Series victory, a result of a 5-year rebuild that made the Astros one of the MLB’s worst for a good 2-3 year span. Now, the Astros are still one of the league’s elite teams, but they lost some of their starting rotation depth this off-season, forcing two starter-turned-relievers back into the rotation. They did bring in OF Michael Brantley and UT Aledmys Diaz, filling the hole UT Marwin Gonzalez left. Though Houston took a slight step back this off-season, I still have them as my AL West winners and the team with the best regular season record. Considering the young core they have put together in the last several years, they should be elite for a long, long, time now.

The Achilles Heel

Evan Gattis is no longer on the team, which means Tyler White must be trusted as Houston’s regular DH.  This could be a prove-it situation for White, but if White struggles, what then?  They could bring Gattis back, or they could just put Diaz back there.  They could even call up Kyle Tucker to play DH.  This one’s an easy fix, just something to keep an eye on.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL West

That’s all for this year’s preseason MLB power rankings.  Come back at the end of April  for my first 2019 set of monthly power rankings.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders and Trade Ideas

Welcome to Part 3 of my 2nd annual MLB free agency predictions.  Last off-season, things took a long time to get going due to a relatively dull free agent market.  This year, that is not the case.  We might have the best MLB free agent class in the history of my blog, and it’s bound to get going any minute now.  That’s why I’m releasing my predictions in November and December this year rather than January.  I wanted to get these out before the Winter Meetings, where a lot of big moves could occur.

Today, I will be sharing my predictions for free agent outfielders, including Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, and A.J. Pollock, as well as some trade ideas.  Feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Below is my tentative schedule for my 2018-19 MLB free agency coverage.

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MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Coverage – Tentative Schedule

Week of November 19: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Pitchers

Week of November 26: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Catchers & Infielders

Week of November 26 or December 3: MLB 2018-19 Free Agency Predictions: Outfielders & Trade Ideas

Week of December 3 or 10: Baseball Bits #11: Big Free Agent Contracts

Note: These predictions were made before Seattle’s trades on December 3 and Pedro Alvarez’s deal on December 5.

OF

Top Tier

The Yankees, Phillies, Dodgers and Nationals have been as Harper’s top suitors.  But if you saw MLB.com’s free agent matrix for Harper, you’d see that the Indians have money to spend and desperately need an outfielder.  Harper would be a good investment for them.  Brantley, the former Cleveland Indian, will head to Houston to provide an upgrade over the combo of Derek Fisher, Tony Kemp, Marwin Gonzalez, and co.

Jerry Dipoto is not rebuilding in the same way Miami did.  They will still sign cheaper free agents, and outfield is a major need.  Look for them to add one or two.  Adam Jones is a good fit, and Hunter Pence will also give Seattle a boost, as he has not fully declined yet in his upper 30’s.  The A’s don’t have much money to spend, but if they’re looking to contend, Andrew McCutchen would be a worthwhile investment who fits well in Oakland.  If the Cubs miss out on Harper, A.J. Pollock could be a good fit.  Albert Almora Jr. is not a viable CF option in my book, and they could use some outfield insurance even with Ben Zobrist helping out there.  Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have not met expectations either.

Secondary Options

If the Rays want to make a playoff push, they have to be aggressive this off-season.  Markakis is an affordable, but elite outfield upgrade option for the Rays.  After getting rid of C.J. Cron, they will need to add another bat to the lineup.  Meanwhile, Jon Jay could be a good fit in St. Louis.  He can share time with the young Harrison Bader in center.

The Rockies are unlikely to bring back both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez.  The rise of Ryan McMahon may push Ian Desmond into the Rockies outfield.  They will re-sign Parra for OF insurance though.  CarGo could fit as a platoon outfielder in Atlanta.  I could see a pretty even time share in the Braves outfield if they add CarGo.  If the Phillies miss out on Harper, they will also still need an outfielder.  Carlos Gomez would be a good fit.  If Rhys Hoskins still gets time in the outfield, they will not want to commit to a top line outfielder like Harper.

Granderson could be afforded by a smaller market team with a need for an outfielder.  Look for the O’s to add him on a one-year deal while Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins develop.

DH

Cruz will return to Seattle, who could still use 1B/DH help.  The Tigers could use another bat to replace Victor Martinez, and preferably another veteran to anchor the rebuild.  Gattis is a perfect fit.  The Royals are also in the market for another bat, and Matt Joyce is an affordable option.  I have Holliday returning to the Yankees on a 1-year deal to provide insurance for the outfield.  Alvarez will head to Minnesota to help out Tyler Austin at first base/DH.

Trade Ideas

Cleveland Indians trade SP Trevor Bauer to the Houston Astros in exchange for RP Brad Peacock, OF Kyle Tucker, C prospect Garrett Stubbs

Everyone says that Corey Kluber is going to be traded.  But I think trading SP Trevor Bauer is a safer option.  In return, they get Brad Peacock, who could be utilized as a starter or a reliever as well as some outfield insurance in Kyle Tucker.  C prospect Garrett Stubbs will provide depth at catcher after the Yan Gomes trade.

Los Angeles Dodgers trade SP Rich Hill to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for RP Corey Knebel

The Dodgers have been in the market for top-line starters including Kluber, but I find this fact ridiculous.  They have an abundance of starters!  Clayton Kershaw is still here, Walker Buehler is a star on the rise, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill are solid mid-tier starters who are returning, and that leaves Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling competing for the #5 spot.  After bringing Ryu back, they have the flexibility to trade one of their starters, as I see Wood as a completely capable starter, and Stripling and Maeda should get the chance for a rotation spot.

Hill is a good trade nugget, and the Brewers could use some better pitching, so they’d be willing to give up one of their many late-inning relievers for Hill.  Knebel will help set up for Kenley Jansen alongside Tony Cingrani and provide depth in a weaker bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays trade C Luke Maile to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP prospect Lewis Thorpe, RHP prospect Jhoan Duran

This is a smaller trade, but worth it for both sides.  Jays C Danny Jansen is MLB ready and can split time with C Russell Martin.  That puts C Luke Maile in an awkward position.  If they trade him to Minnesota, who needs a backup catcher, they could get some valuable pitching prospects to boost a weak rotation down the road.

That’s all for my MLB free agency predictions.  But my Baseball Bits on overly expensive free agents is up next.  Stay tuned.

Ranking The Teams 6-1: My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up

Welcome to the 5th and final part of my MLB pre-season power rankings.  Although the season has started, I am still finishing this series.  I will also have my first Red Sox Report article of 2018 coming soon, as well as coverage on NFL free agency and the upcoming Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins games.

Last time, I covered the teams that are true contenders but are not quite on the level of the MLB’s best.  That consisted of 5 wild card competitors and the Indians, the lowest ranked of what is known as the MLB Super Seven.  They just missed the Top 6, at #7.  I looked at how they did this off-season, how they’ll do this season, and what’s holding them back.  I also discussed best and worst case scenarios for each team and projected their records and division placements.  Today I will do the same for the for the Top 6 teams in the league.  What are their chances of winning it all, and what are their Achilles Heels?  Read below to find out how the best of the best line up.  Every team on this part of the list is part of the Super Seven I have been mentioning.

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Boston Sports Mania MLB Pre-Season Power Rankings

Friday, March 23: Ranking The Teams 30-25, My Version: Who’s In The Basement?

Sunday, March 25: Ranking The Teams 24-19, My Version: Teams That Will Struggle

Monday, March 26: Ranking The Teams 18-13, My Version: The Middle of the Pack

Monday, April 2: Ranking The Teams 12-7, My Version: Who Will Contend in 2018?

Thursday, April 5: Ranking The Teams 6-1, My Version: How The Best of the Best Line Up*

*My pre-season Baseball Bits are also up.

6. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox

Off-Season Review

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The Red Sox were pretty quiet for much of the off-season despite the rumors that they were the front-runners to sign OF J.D. Martinez, and that it was near inevitable that the Red Sox signed him.  They did bring back 1B Mitch Moreland and 2B Eduardo Nunez.  With that, they had a pretty good roster.  But they had no home run hitter, which was crucial after the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and formed what has the potential to be a historic HR duo between Stanton and Aaron Judge.  Eventually, they did sign Martinez despite a lack of a position for him to play.  If there was an open position called “designated home run hitter (DHH)”, it might be fitting, but now he has to split his time between left field and DH, with Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. losing at-bats to him.

The Case for the Red Sox

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If the Red Sox are meeting their expectations, they will make the playoffs, and they will make it to at least the ALDS.  Red Sox reporter Tony Massarotti thinks we are a good team but can do a lot better, and I agree.  Sure, the Yankees had a great off-season and are now favorites to beat us out in the AL East.  But the Sox are capable of winning the division, and if they cannot win the division, they are definitely capable of making the playoffs.  Hopefully, Chris Sale and David Price will be able to lead the rotation together after Sale’s strong 2017 and Price’s strong Spring Training, and I’m hoping J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts can lead the lineup (with the help of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who are off to a great start).

But if they cannot, we need someone else to step up their game.  In fact, no matter what, we need someone else to step it up.  Whether Bogey keeps going and breaks out, or Devers builds on his late 2017 success, or Andrew Benintendi has the season he was supposed to have one year ago, I will be satisfied.  They just need one more player to build on the consistency they have had and turn it into dominance.

The Achilles Heel

Like I said, the Red Sox have an ace, and they have a pretty strong lineup. But they just need some of their good players to achieve greatness. It would be nice if they could have the beastly rotation people were expecting of them, and so far, it’s looked pretty good. It would also be nice if the Red Sox had a couple more players who broke through and joined Betts and Martinez as the All-Stars of the lineup. World Series contenders aren’t led by a couple superstars and a bunch of other good, but not great players. They are led by a group of star players that work well and fit well together.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates, several players in the lineup breakout and the Red Sox go on to win the World Series, which you will notice is the Best Case Scenario for all 6 of the top teams.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation continues to be inconsistent, the lineup is no more than good, and the Red Sox lose out to other teams like the Twins and Angels in the Wild Card race.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 2nd in AL East

 

5. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs

Off-Season Review

Image result for yu darvish cubs

The Cubs lost star pitcher Jake Arrieta, but they made up for it by signing SP Yu Darvish and SP Tyler Chatwood.  They also added Brandon Morrow to a strong bullpen.  The Cubs appear to be pretty confident in their lineup, but does their lineup need an upgrade if the Cubs want to win another World Series ring?

The Case for the Cubs

About a year ago, the Cubs were viewed as the best team in the MLB.  But the competition has caught up with them, and the Cubs experienced a World Series hangover early in 2017.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros have all caught up, and the Indians, Nationals, and Red Sox are close.  They have a nice young roster with a dominant rotation, and their lineup is great but could use a bit of a boost in the power department.

The Achilles Heel

The Cubs have a lot of good, consistent, hitters.  But they were hoping that they could get some power out of guys like Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo that they have signed/kept around.  Bryant and Rizzo have done well at the plate, but are good hitters for average, not good hitters for power.  Heyward was signed to add some power to the lineup, and it would have been nice to see some power out of Ben Zobrist.  Who will emerge as a home run hitter for the Cubs?  If they cannot find one, then that means the league’s elite teams are one step ahead of them.

Best Case Scenario: The Cubs go on to win a World Series after Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have dominant years at the plate and get help from Chicago’s younger players.  The rotation also continues to dominate.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms, the lineup cannot find their power hitter, and the Cubs just barely snag a Wild Card after losing their division to the Cardinals or Brewers.

Projected Finish: 92-70, 1st in NL Central\

 

4. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers

Off-Season Review

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The Dodgers kept their roster at World Series level.  They did lose some of their starting pitchers, but they had at least eight viable starters on their World Series roster.  They added Tom Koehler to the bullpen, and he could even start in the case of an injury to another starter.  They also brought back Chase Utley and acquired Matt Kemp from the Braves in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez and a couple extra starters they had.  Gonzalez was no longer needed with Cody Bellinger ready to start at first base full time.

The Case for the Dodgers

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The Dodgers could still be a World Series contender, but other teams may beat them out.  The Astros are looking even better this year, the Nats have extra motivation to do well with many star players in contract years, and the Yankees have more power in their lineup than any other team in the league.  Their lineup and rotation still look great.  Clayton Kershaw has continued to dominate the league, and the lineup has done well despite the lack of a true leader.

The Achilles Heel

The Dodgers do not have any major holes.  But they need two smaller things.  The first thing is some bullpen help.  They need to find a reliable set up man for Kenley Jansen, and even Jansen has struggled so far.  They also need a leader for the lineup.  They have a lot of great hitters, but who is their true star?  Kershaw is the rotation leader.  Who will be the Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers lineup?

Best Case Scenario: Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner will lead the Dodgers lineup to dominance, the rotation continues to thrive, and Kenley Jansen gets back on track as the Dodgers win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Kershaw, along with the rest of the rotation regresses, the lack of depth hurts them, and the lineup cannot quite dominate without a leader.  Jansen and the bullpen continue to struggle too, and the Dodgers are left to compete for a Wild Card.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in NL West

 

3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees

Off-Season Review

Image result for giancarlo stanton yankees

The Yankees already had a strong lineup, and they made a splash this off-season by adding to that.  They acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins, and with that, they had the top two home run hitters in the league in Stanton and Aaron Judge.  They also added 2B Neil Walker late in the off-season to help out while Gleyber Torres recovers from his injury and continues to develop.  They acquired Brandon Drury to help out Miguel Andujar at third too.

The Case for the Yankees

The Yanks have a lineup that is stacked with home run hitters, but they are lacking depth, especially in the infield.  Judge and Stanton will balance things out though, making the lineup look dominant.  The rotation also looks good but is the one portion of their roster that does not quite match up with the Red Sox, who can rely on the combo of Chris Sale and David Price.  The good thing is, the rotation will be backed up by a strong bullpen, much stronger than the Red Sox bullpen.

The Achilles Heel

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The Yankees do have a bit of an infield depth problem, but their real depth problem is in the rotation.  Jordan Montgomery has been forced into the #5 starter role, while the Sox will have E-Rod and Steven Wright once everyone is healthy.  The Yankees have a nice group of starters, but they lack depth, and they lack a true ace.  Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino are great but are not quite ace material.  The Red Sox have Chris Sale to lead their rotation, so they are ahead of the Yankees in that department.

Best Case Scenario: The rotation dominates the league with multiple #1 level starters, the bullpen backs them up, and the lineup hits the most home runs in the MLB by a long shot as the Yanks win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems come back to bite the Yankees, the Yanks must depend on their bullpen after rotation struggles, and the lineup cannot find much talent around Gary Sanchez, Stanton and Judge.  The Yankees are left with a Wild Card spot and do not make the ALDS.

Projected Finish: 96-66, 1st in AL East

 

2. houston-astros Houston Astros

Off-Season Review

Image result for gerrit cole astros

After winning the World Series (as I predicted) in 2017, the Astros only got better.  They acquired Gerrit Cole from the Pirates, and now they will have Justin Verlander for a full season.  They arguably have seven viable starters, and their first three starters were all #1 starters on different teams before this season.  They also added Joe Smith to a strong bullpen.

The Case for the Astros

Image result for jose altuve

The Astros are coming off a World Series title, and I do not expect much of a hangover.  They have a dominant rotation, and a strong lineup led by Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and AL MVP Jose Altuve.  I don’t see much of a chance for them to regress.  But will they be beaten out by a motivated contender who was not won in recent years?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for derek fisher astros

The Astros do not have any major weaknesses, but with DH Carlos Beltran gone, and 1B Yulieski Gurriel suspended, they will have some depth problems in the lineup.  They will have to rely on Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick, Derek Fisher, and J.D. Davis more this season.  Other than that, they do not have any other problems, at least major problems.  That will likely resolve itself as the season progresses.

Best Case Scenario: The stacked lineup dominates, the rotation is led by three aces, and the Astros dominate the league for the second consecutive year, winning the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: The rotation underperforms and struggles, depth and World Series hangover problems affect the lineup, and the Astros fail to make the ALCS after losing the division to the Angels surprisingly.

Projected Finish: 95-67, 1st in AL West

 

1. washington-nats Washington Nationals

Off-Season Review

The Nats did not make any big moves this off-season besides resigning Howie Kendrick, and I think their roster looks good as it is, although it could have used one more starting pitcher.  They should sign somebody who’s still available if A.J. Cole struggles in the rotation.  But the Nats have many star players, including Bryce Harper in contract years, so the Nationals are in win now mode, and for that reason, they are my favorite to win the World Series.

The Case for the Nationals

Image result for bryce harper

Like I said, the Nats are in win-now mode.  The window is closing for this team to win a World Series with this era of players, but I think this could be the year.  With a great roster flooded with young talent and led by superstars in Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals are in good position to take advantage of the fact that they have one more year to win it all before they lose Bryce Harper and other strong players on the roster to free agency.  But will they be motivated enough to lead themselves past other dominant teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees?

The Achilles Heel

Image result for aj cole

The Nationals have a nice lineup that is still doing well early on, even with Daniel Murphy starting on the DL.  Later in the season, Murphy will help lead them.  But the rotation has a depth problem.  If A.J. Cole struggles, the Nationals have nobody to replace him with Joe Ross injured. There is no guarantee that any free agent pitcher will willingly sign here, but if Cole struggles, they will need to try, or it may hold them back from winning now like they are hoping to.

Best Case Scenario: Motivated to win it all before losing Harper, the Nats lineup dominates, carried by an MVP season by Bryce Harper where he nearly wins the Triple Crown.  The rotation also dominates as A.J. Cole does well and Strasburg and Scherzer dominate all year.  The Nationals win the World Series triumphantly.

Worst Case Scenario: Depth problems cause rotation struggles and injury problems add to it, Bryce Harper cannot carry the lineup alone in a contract year, and the Nats just edge out a division win and struggle in the NLDS.

Projected Finish: 97-65, 1st in NL East

 

That’s all for my MLB pre-season power rankings.  My next power rankings update will come at the end of April as I begin my Monthly Power Ranking series.  I will also have Red Sox recaps, more Baseball Bits, and my first Red Sox Report of 2018 coming soon (The Red Sox Report article will be up tomorrow and I will try to post them every Friday from here on out.)

MLB 2017 Predictions: Baseball Will Be Fun Again

The Super Bowl is in the books, and spring training is around the corner.  It’s time to take a look at what’s in store for this baseball season.  As Bryce Harper stated in 2016, he wants baseball to be fun again.  Well, 2017 will bring that, and I’ll tell you how.  There will be competition, players will have better seasons, and the MLB will just be a little bit more interesting.  Who will win it all?  Keep reading to find out.

My Predictions

AL East

  1. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70
  2. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 88-74
  3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 87-75
  4. image Baltimore Orioles 80-82
  5. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 69-93

The Red Sox did lose David Ortiz, but they got Chris Sale in the off-season, and after this off season, the rotation looks better, the bullpen is alright, and their lineup is still good.  The Blue Jays are still going to be good, but after the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, they won’t be a playoff team.  Despite signing Kendrys Morales, this team doesn’t include a true superstar.  The Yankees went young and are looking better, but it will take time for them to return to the playoffs.  The Orioles rotation is falling apart again, and the Matt Wieters-less lineup isn’t enough.  Meanwhile, the Rays won’t get much better.  Despite a good rotation, they need big hitters to compete in the East.

AL Central

  1. cleveland-indians Cleveland Indians 92-70
  2. detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 89-73
  3. kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals 81-81
  4. chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox 78-84
  5. minnesota-twins  Minnesota Twins 63-99

The Indians signed Edwin Encarnacion and will definitely stay on top because of that.    But what else did they do this off season?  Not much, that will hurt them in the playoffs.  The Tigers and Royals didn’t do much either, but one or both of them could have a bounce back seasons.  It won’t be enough to Top Cleveland though. The White Sox are depending on young talent, which isn’t a safe bet, and the Twins are still in the middle of a treacherous rebuild.  

AL West

  1. texas-rangers Texas Rangers 94-68
  2. houston-astros Houston Astros 91-71
  3. seattle-mariners-logo Seattle Mariners 86-76
  4. la-angels-of-anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 76-86
  5. oakland-a's Oakland Athletics 65-97

I don’t know why people are saying the Rangers are going to miss the playoffs.  Their lineup is almost as good as last year.  Despite losing Mitch Moreland and Ian Desmond, Josh Hamilton is working his way back and Jurickson Profar may contribute more in 2017.  The rotation is just as good if not better.  The Astros could also be a significant contender, with a better lineup and bullpen.  The Mariners and Angels also made some good moves and they both have gotten better overall. However, neither team is quite fit to contend yet.  Meanwhile, the Athletics are in a rebuild and will not contend either.  

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 90-72
  3. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 87-75
  4. atlanta-braves Atlanta Braves 67-95
  5. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 65-97

The Nationals haven’t really done much this off-season, but they really haven’t lost much, and with a little fine-tuning, they could be as good as they have been.  The Mets should also be playoff material as they’ve put together a good lineup and still have one of the best rotations in the league.  The Marlins have also improved.  They have a good young lineup and the rotation has a lot of depth.  Although Jose Fernandez passed away, they added Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez to maintain strength in their rotation.  Meanwhile, the Braves have a nice balance of old and young, but it will take a couple of years for them to rebuild.  Same with the Phillies.  Neither team will compete this year, but they are making smart moves for their future.  

 

NL Central

 

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 96-66
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 93-69
  3. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 85-77
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds 74-88
  5. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 72-90

 

The Cubs made some nice finishing touches in the off-season, and despite losing Jason Hammel, their lineup’s still good, and they will still be a World Series contender.  The Cardinals should compete though.  Their lineup lacks a true star, but young talent should help them improve, along with new outfielder Dexter Fowler.  Their rotation is also looking a lot better for 2017 with Lance Lynn returning.  The Pirates lack a good rotation although their lineup is still good.  But without good pitching they will not be a playoff team.  The Reds are going to be alright but need to trade away the older guys and rebuild if they want any chance at a pennant in the near future, and the Brewers are already rebuilding.  For them, it will take a couple of years to be able to contend again.  

 

NL West

 

  1. los-angeles-dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72
  2. sanfran-giants San Francisco Giants 88-74
  3. colorado-rockies Colorado Rockies 85-77
  4. arizona-dbacks Arizona Diamondbacks 79-83
  5. san diego-padres San Diego Padres 63-99

The NL West will be a tight division with no clear leader.  The Dodgers are the favorites, but they have flaws, in the bullpen and in the lineup.  For the Giants, it’s an odd year.  The rotation looks good, but the lineup could struggle.  That gives the Rockies the chance to sneak into contention.  They have a powerful lineup and they play in a place where you need that.  Their rotation needs some work, but with a veteran mentor, the young rotation will look a lot better and the Rockies could contend.  They are one team that will help make baseball fun again, along with other teams like the Marlins, Astros, Mariners, Angels and Yankees to name a few.  Their unique experimental style is making the game interesting. Signing a guy like Jason Hammel, Jered Weaver or Doug Fister may help.  The D-Backs are a young team that I expect to improve in 2017.  In a few years, they could contend.  Meanwhile, the Padres are just, the Padres.  They’ve hit rock bottom in a horrific rebuild and may have one of their worst seasons ever.  Signing veterans short term back then didn’t work out, and it’s causing bigger problems now.

2017 MLB Playoffs

In the NL, the Cardinals will be a lot better. They will challenge the Cubs for the throne. Once the Cubs win that series though, they’ll have an easy path to the World Series, as the Nats, Mets and Dodgers are nowhere near as good as the NL Central rivals. In the World Series, I think the Cubs will be the favorite, but the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, and the Cubs won’t repeat. Instead, the Astros will surprise the Cubs, and their young talent will be enough to beat the Cubs. The Cubs are a good young team, but the Astros have more young talent, and that will help them win the World Series.

Too much to take in? Here’s a video to sum it all up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWliFjZ7C6k

 

 

Awards

Here are my Top 3 choices for the MVP and Cy Young awards.

AL MVP

  1. Alcides Escobar KC – Escobar will prove himself in a contract year.
  2. Manny Machado BAL – Machado will continue greatness, this time, it will be MVP-worthy.
  3. Matt Holliday NYY – Holliday will come up big with his new team

 

NL MVP

  1. Bryce Harper WSH – Harper won’t repeat last season’s struggles.  Besides, baseball will be fun again for him.
  2. Nolan Arenado COL – Arenado will have another good season, this time bringing the Rockies up with him.
  3. Jason Heyward CHC – Heyward among others will keep the Cubs good in 2017.  The Cubs are still arguably the best team in the MLB.

 

AL Cy Young

 

  1. Cole Hamels TEX – Hamels will have a strong 2017 and go at a Cy Young.
  2. Chris Sale BOS – Sale will be motivated to start strong in Boston.
  3. Derek Holland CWS – Who needs Sale?  In Chicago, they’ll have a new ace in town with a breakout year by Derek Holland.

 

NL Cy Young

  1. Stephen Strasburg WSH – Strasburg will finally get healthy and return to Cy Young level
  2. Zack Greinke ARZ – Greinke will really bounce back in 2017, bringing on memories of  his 2015 greatness.
  3. Jeff Samardzija SF – Samardzija will lead a good 2017 Giants rotation, although the lineup in San Francisco will struggle.

 

ROTY Predictions:

AL – Andrew Benintendi: He will continue greatness in 2017, and go on to win Rookie Of The Year and be one of the better Red Sox hitters.

NL – Dansby Swanson: This won’t be an easy choice for voters, but Swanson will have a great season.  However, other rookies like Tyler Glasnow could chase the award.

 

So, there you have it.  The MLB is worth watching in 2016.  Baseball will be fun again.

Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

opening-day-16

 

It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

yankees-2b-castro

AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

eric-hosmer-jason-heyward

The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

yu-darvish

I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

kmaeda

The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!

 

Scouting Report: Chicago Cubs

 

 

 

2016-cubs-kyle-schwarber.jpg

The Cubs have been one of the most effective teams this off season.  They snagged Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and other top free agents.  They already went to the NLCS in 2015, who knows how powerful they’ll be in 2016.  This article looks at all the moves this team made to fill the cracks from the 2016 NLCS and look at some question marks at camp.  Can this team win their first ring in ages?

 

Off-Season Review

 

The Cubs had a pretty effective off season.  They got stars, prospects and everything else they need to win a pennant.   The Cubs came in to the off season with clear needs: rotation and bullpen help, an outfielder and maybe a middle infielder.

You could’ve never seen what was coming based on how slow the Cubs were to begin the off season.  They got Spencer Patton in a trade with Texas, who will compete for a roster spot now that Rex Brothers is gone.  Oh, by the way, they got him in November via free agency and released him at camp.  All the sudden, on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they got super busy!  They traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan and signed Ben Zobrist in his place, moving Addison Russell to short.  They later released Ryan and he signed with the Nats, but they held on to Warren.  Still not much in return for their star shortstop who might be a second baseman in New York.  Throughout the winter meetings they got some minor deals in.

They signed relievers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi and resigned Trevor Cahill.  But their biggest splash was at he end of the meetings.  There was a tight race for Jason Heyward.  Many teams, including the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs were interested, until the Cubbies struck an eight year deal with the prime-age outfielder.  After the Meetings it was quiet in Chicago.  They did however get Edgar Olmos off waivers while waiving quality reliever Yoervis Medina.  Medina must’ve not fit in the Cubbies’ system.

The same took place in January, they did however get Kristopher Negron, Munenori Kawasaki among others signed to minor league contracts.  It wasn’t until late February when the Cubs got active again.  They made a minor trade to get Chris Coghlan out of the way and receive spot starter Aaron Brooks in return.  They signed Manny Parra and Shane Victorino, key players to minors deals, but the biggest and most surprising signing was a resigning of Dexter Fowler.  they had J-Hey locked up in center, now he would move to right, kicking Jorge Soler out of his starting role.  Now that was an iffy signing unless the Cubs can find Kyle Schwarber an infield or catching position opening.

Soler was worthy of the starting position, but Schwarber is too good to bench for him.  The Cubs signed good players, but the bad thing about this team is that the players signed may not fit correctly in Chicago.  There are so many players on this team that will be benched and deserve opportunities.  I gave them a pretty good grade because if they just have players they should have starting sitting on their bench, and yet they additionally have powerful starters, it makes for a good team, but a) If the team is too crammed, it could hurt them and b) The team, especially its youth isn’t reaching its full potential.

Off Season Grade: A-

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Is the bullpen all set?

I’ve been a little worried about the depth of this bullpen.  The late inning relief in Chicago is satisfying, but the long relief sector of the bullpen could be short on players.  Sure, they got a lot of good, older minor league relievers but the only reliever that isn’t some washed up older guy besides the set up and closing pitchers is Travis Wood, who could also be needed as a spot starter!  Sure, they have Aaron Brooks now, but some of their rotation is injury prone, and they need a better bullpen to back them up.

Who will come out of the tight position battles?

The one issue with the Cubs is that the powerful youth of this team isn’t getting its shot, staying in the shadows of the big name players.  Here I will go over a couple clustered areas in the Cubs lineup, most showcasing a young guy competing with a veteran.  Note: Some of these are only significant enough for the young guy to get some playing time, not necessarily the starting job.

2B/SS: Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, Javier Baez + 2 others

It’s clear who gets the starts here.  Time from the bench, that’s debatable.  I think Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera and maybe even Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella should get playing time.  Baez was nearly as strong a prospect as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, just didn’t power forward as quickly.  Baez deserves some serious consideration, possibly even to platoon with Addison Russell at short, but the other guys need to prove themselves legitimately before getting any significant time.  Sure, La Stella may get a couple games and injury fill-in time, but no more than that.  The other guys are lucky to get a 40-man roster spot, let alone major league appearances.

LF: Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Shane Victorino

This is the toughest position battle in the NL.  Schwarber or Soler?  Wait, why is Victorino even here?  He’s more of a backup then fighting for a position.  But if rumors of Kyle Schwarber moving positions are true, Victorino will be considered.  That’s a whole other story, I won’t even get in to that one.  Victorino is better in center and right anyways.  So, back to Soler and Schwarber.  Schwarber quickly found his way to the majors and into a good position on the roster, looking like a multi-year veteran.  He was only a rookie who snuck on to the roster.  He goes up against a rookie who started the year in a full time position and kept it since J-Hey wasn’t here.  Soler wasn’t as broad of a prospect, but was clearly majors ready going into last season.

 

 

Will their off season moves be worth it?

Yes and no.  Yes they will, because they have an improved lineup with more veterans, not just a bunch of strong rookies, but still have good balance.  Personally I thought Dexter Fowler wasn’t a great fit in Chicago, and he was better in Houston, and it would have been a great fit if he signed with the Cardinals.  With that the Cards would have revenge on their rivals.  That gets in to the no part.  Some of the guys they signed don’t fit right, and it would’ve been better just to leave the young sensations in those positions.  Jorge Soler losing his job to an outfield trio of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and young Kyle Schwarber is a perfect example.

Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Jake Arrieta

Jon Lester

John Lackey

Jason Hammel

Kyle Hendricks

 

Bullpen

Hector Rondon (CL)

Justin Grimm

Pedro Strop

Travis Wood

Trevor Cahill

Dallas Beeler

Adam Warren

 

Lineup

  1. Dexter Fowler (CF)
  2. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
  4. Jason Heyward (RF)
  5. Kris Bryant (3B)
  6. Ben Zobrist (2B)
  7. Miguel Montero (C)
  8. Pitcher
  9. Addison Russell (SS)

 

Bench

David Ross

Javier Baez

Tommy La Stella

Jorge Soler

Shane Victorino

 

That’s all for today.  See my next scouting report tomorrow on the other Chicago team, the White Sox.

 

MLB 2016 Preview: Cubs, Red Sox Among Most Improved

MLB 2016 Preview

 

There’s just one week till spring training, so its just about time for my MLB 2016 Preview.  Below is a video that has some of what I’ll be looking at, but this post is more detailed than the video.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1454716309&f=i3wsqO8iPHL12x2paS1hvw&d=0&m=p&r=360p&volume=100&start_res=360p&i=m&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=

By the way, I actually have the Dodgers winning the world series, but I wanted to show my Red Sox fandom on my Animoto account.

 

Alright, let’s dig in.

Projected Records

AL East

  1. boston-red-sox Boston Red Sox 92-70
  2. Toronto_Blue_Jays Toronto Blue Jays 89-73
  3. new-york-yankees New York Yankees 85-77
  4. Tampa_Bay_Rays Tampa Bay Rays 83-79
  5. Baltimore-Orioles-Logo Baltimore Orioles 74-88

 

I have the Red Sox bouncing back from an ugly season and going from worst to first once again.  The Red Sox were even bolder than they were last off season, acquiring Craig Kimbrel from the Padres, despite giving up former #3 and #7 prospects Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra.  Then they signed AL Cy Young runner up David Price to a seven year, 217 million dollar deal.  They also signed Chris Young to a two year deal and traded Wade Miley for relievers Roenis Elias and Carson Smith.  They now have a strong rotation front and a top closer, along with the powerful lineup the 2015 Red Sox provided.

David Price Red Sox
David Price signing a 7 year, 217 million dollar deal with the Red Sox.

Meanwhile I think the Blue Jays will stay strong even without their 2015 ace and closer (David Price & LaTroy Hawkins).  They still have a strong lineup and some amazing prospects, and they acquired some new starters like J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez, plus closer/set-up man Drew Storen.  I think they still have some playoff relevance.

The Yankees meanwhile have done majority of their moves via trade.  They acquired Starlin Castro for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan, plus star closer Aroldis Chapman from Cincy.  Having Chapman in New York will heat up the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry as the Sox acquired Kimbrel.  The Yanks should be competitive in the division.

The Rays upgraded their pretty empty offense with Logan Morrison and Brad Miller.  Centerfielder Desmond Jennings also will return from injury this season.  Alex Cobb will also return.  I think the Rays are still a little washed up in their lineup, but they have good defense and pitching.

... photo desmond jennings desmond jennings 8 of the tampa bay rays makes
Desmond Jennings returns to the lineup after spending 2015 on the DL.

Meanwhile I don’t think the Orioles’ acquistions are efficient.  Mark Trumbo is not a full time starter, Hyun-Soo Kim might not be as good in America, and they still have a serious hole in the rotation.  They already had a pretty bad team last year, they just made it a lot worse.  The Orioles are by far the worst team in this division.  Besides maybe the Rays, every other team in this division will still be in the playoff race at the beginning of September.

 

AL Central

  1.  detroit-tigers Detroit Tigers 93-69
  2.  chicago-white-sox Chicago White Sox  89-73
  3.  kansas-city-royals Kansas City Royals  89-73
  4.  minnesota-twins.png Minnesota Twins  73-89
  5.  cleveland-indians.jpg Cleveland Indians  68-94

This division’s teams have made many impact transactions but not every team that made an impact in free agency can do well, especially all in the same division.

The Tigers have really improved their pitching game and outfield to match the rest of their good teams.  They signed Justin Upton, Mark Lowe, Mike Pelfrey and Jordan Zimmermann and have acquired Cameron Maybin and Justin Wilson via trade.  They only gave up Ian Krol to trade and Alfredo Simon and Rajai Davis to free agency.  Even after a bad season, I think that the top prospects and star players will combine to make a bad team in 2015 a great, powerful team that will make an impact in 2016.

FullSizeRender(5).jpg
After several signings, the Detroit Tigers’ rotation is looking good.

Meanwhile the White Sox have also been very active in the hot stove.  They’ve revamped their infield by trading for both Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie.  Lawrie was a third baseman like Frazier but will play at second to make room for Todd Frazier.  They still have a hole at shortstop though.

The Royals are still good, but are once again lacking a rotation.  They also have a hole in the outfield unless Jarrod Dyson can step it up.  So, they’ll compete, but they aren’t necessarily make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, I don’t think the Twins’ youth plus Byung-Ho Park is enough to bring a good season in the Twin Cities.  The Indians haven’t done enough by getting Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis.  So there are teams in the Central that aren’t competitive as well.

 

AL West

  1. texas-rangers.png  Texas Rangers  90-72
  2. seattle-mariners-logo.png   Seattle Mariners  87-75
  3. houston-astros.jpg  Houston Astros  79-83
  4. oakland-a's.png  Oakland Athletics  78-84
  5. la-angels-of-anaheim.png   Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 71-91

I have the Texas Rangers at the top of this division.  Look at their rotation.  Personally, I think that both Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are serious Cy Young candidates.  The two ace-like pitchers are joined by wing man Derek Holland.  They also have a powerful lineup with some guys like Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder who have a ton of potential.

Yu Darvish threw bullpen session yesterday - iFreePress iFreePress
Yu Darvish is ready to bounce back after missing nearly two full seasons.

The Mariners also made a lot of impact trades.  Despite giving up Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Roenis Elias and Carson Smith, they traded for Wade Miley, Joaquin Benoit, Jonathan Aro, Nathan Karns, Adam Lind, Leonys Martin and Luis Sardinas.  They also signed closer Steve Cishek, outfielder Norichika Aoki and resigned King Felix’s trusty wing-man, Hisashi Iwakuma.  So this is a pretty revamped team.

The Astros are also still a somewhat powerful, young team.  Guys like Carlos Correa really stepped it up last year, and they signed some strong veterans like Doug Fister.  Some veterans, like Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez, are also playing their first full season in Houston and others like Brad Peacock are returning from injury this year.  The Astros have a lot of potential but aren’t quite as good as the Mariners and Rangers.

There are teams worse than that though.  The Athletics made some minor moves as usual, and they’ve recovered from some injuries to players, so they will be better, just not enough to make an impact.  Jarrod Parker returns from Tommy John surgery, and hopefully the former star Coco Crisp can bounce back.

The Los Angeles Angels also will get C.J. Wilson back, but this team is in need of some serious luck.  Craig Gentry and Daniel Nava must create an efficient platoon in left, the rotation is full of people who are either feast or famine or fresh off a breakout, and they still have serious problems at second.

So the AL West is competitive, but there is a wide division between the good teams, decent teams and bad teams.

NL East

  1. washington-nats Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. new-york-mets New York Mets 87-75
  3. miami-marlins Miami Marlins 77-85
  4. philadelphia.phillies Philadelphia Phillies 75-87
  5. atlanta-braves.jpg Atlanta Braves 66-96

The Nationals continue to improve their team.  They got solid second baseman Daniel Murphy.  They also got Ben Revere for their second unneeded closer Drew Storen.  The Jays did need him.  They already had a good team, now they have a great and healthy one built off Bryce Harper and star pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.

The Mets also resigned Yoenis Cespedes and signed Asdrubal Cabrera for the first time.  They additionally traded for Neil Walker. They have a strong rotation but still lack power in their lineup.  They should be good, but not necessarily a playoff contender as there are much better wild card candidates in the NL.

The Marlins also have improved their pitching to match the lineup they revamped in 2015.  But some of the guys like shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, utility Derek Dietrich and first baseman Justin Bour are still developing.  At least they have Martin Prado and Don Kelly in the infield, and a pretty powerful, but somewhat old outfield.

The Phillies have gotten better as well.  They’ve really improved their rotation, including the acquisition of veterans Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton, Brett Oberholtzer and Vincent VelasquezBobby LaFramboise, Jerad Eickhoff, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez will lead the bullpen.  They also have acquired Peter Bourjos to join Odubel Herrera and Cody Asche in the outfield.  They have a stronger, more developed lineup and rotation, but still aren’t above .500 material.

Meanwhile, the Braves are much worse.  They have some serious holes in the infield, despite acquiring Erick Aybar.  Their pitching is worse, even more devastated despite signing minor league players Kyle Kendrick, Alexi Ogando and David Holmberg.

 NL Central

  1. Chicago_Cubs Chicago Cubs 96-66
  2. St_Louis_Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals 91-71
  3. pittsburgh-pirates Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. cincinnati_reds_logo Cincinnati Reds 79-83
  5. milwaukee-brewers Milwaukee Brewers 65-97

The Cubs already had a good team last year with Kris Bryant and some other dominant young stars making it to the majors.  This off season, the really stacked up.  They already had Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, they inked John Lackey to a deal too.  Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward also got deals in Chicago.  This team now looks to be one of the most powerful MLB teams while still having a starting lineup that’s almost 50% MLB rookies or sophomores.

Offseason moves increase pressure on 2016 Cubs to live up to the hype
Jason Heyward is just one major signing the Cubs made this off season.

The Cardinals still have power in the division, but were fed on just like the 2014-15 Tigers were fed on by the Nationals.  What I mean is that without any trades, one team is taking a lot of the Cardinals’ top 2015 free agents, that team is their division rival the Cubs.  Their rotation is shorthanded without Lance Lynn and there outfield will miss Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos.  Even Matt Holliday will hit free agency next season.  However they have picked  up Jedd Gyorko and Seung-Hwan Oh, and got some good insurance in Brandon Moss and Jonathan Broxton at the 2015 trade deadline.  They also could still sign a big bat like Dexter Fowler, Austin Jackson or Ian Desmond.

The Pirates are clearly at loss after losing Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez, but with A.J. Burnett retiring, they stacked up on some pitchers.  They acquired Jon Niese, A.J. Schugel and Kyle Lobstein, and signed Ryan Vogelsong.  yet they still have thriving prospect Tyler Glasnow. Man, their pitching staff is stacked.  They additionally signed slugger John Jaso.  But in the end, compared to the Cards and Cubs, they aren’t too good.

The Reds even have some potential.  I see potential in this rotation.  Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen is who I think will make up the rotation.  They could also sign a veteran like Tim Lincecum and let Finnegan or Lorenzen rest after Bailey’s return from Tommy John surgery.  If not, Keyvius Sampson or John Lamb will have to start until then, unless Robert Stephenson is in the Opening Day rotation.  This team also has some serious holes, and needs some better hitting from Billy Hamilton, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips.  They desperately need a third baseman and an outfielder, and may have a ton of last minute signings if they don’t want to suck.  Hey, maybe Scott Schebler takes the outfield, Jose Peraza platoons at third with Ivan DeJesus efficiently, and Homer Bailey comes back early and shines.  Or they snag the older guys like Juan Uribe last minute.

Homer Bailey Homer Bailey #34 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches during ...
In his return from Tommy John Surgery, Homer Bailey should be able to bounce back in 2016.

The Brewers don’t look any better.  Right now, Matt Garza and Wilin Peralta are their best pitchers, Will Smith is their closer, and they need some serious help in certain other positions.  What are they going to do?  Suck is what.

NL West

  1. los-angeles-dodgers.png Los Angeles Dodgers 94-68
  2. san diego-padres.png San Diego Padres 91-71
  3. arizona-dbacks.png Arizona Diamondbacks 88-74
  4. sanfran-giants.png San Francisco Giants 84-78
  5. colorado-rockies.png Colorado Rockies 67-95

This division may surprise you a lot.  The Giants put so much money into this off season, and they only go 84-78.  The Padres have the season they were expecting a year ago.  The D-Backs and Giants both miss the playoffs and are short of a 90-win season after acquiring or signing a combined four top 50 pitchers in the MLB, two apiece. The Dodgers still rule the division after all that drama.  Finally, despite a strong rebuild, the Rockies still suck.

The Dodgers however also acquired some good pitchers in Kenta Maeda and Scott KazmirHyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy will also return this season.  They have a secure lineup with very few holes and a strong rotation.

Kenta Maeda Pictures - Los Angeles Dodgers Introduce Kenta Maeda ...
The Dodgers won a tight race for Japanese star Kenta Maeda.

 

But what happened to the even year luck in San Francisco?  Pablo Sandoval brought it to Boston.  Oh well, Giants, all that hard work and my Red Sox still get all the glory, with little to pay up at all.

The D-Backs are also looking better but do you honestly think they can win a  division title with the lineup they have?  Not happening.

MLB 2016 Postseason

 

FullSizeRender(6).jpg
My MLB 2016 Playoff Bracket.  I have the Dodgers over the Red Sox in the World Series

Okay, okay, I might be getting a little carried away with the Padres doing so well, because the Cubs wouldn’t lose to them likely.  Well here’s something I’ll throw at you, even though I have the Dodgers winning the World Series, I nearly considered the Nats to beat them in the NLDS.  Bryce Harper is primed for a bigger breakout than even last year’s.  I know I always overrate the Nats, and again, I could be wrong with the Nats even making the playoffs.  The Mets could take their spot or San Diego’s.  You may have actually noticed that I had the Sox over LA in the Animoto video, I was just showing my Red Sox fandom.  But lets be honest here, the Dodgers rotation is by far better than the Red Sox’s.  They also have a slight edge with their outfield.

Alright, now the AL.  Again, I may be exaggerating with the White Sox, I did say the Tigers are ready to bounce back.  Now I don’t have them winning a single playoff game.  That’s up for debate.  But especially if Chicago signs Ian Desmond, think about it.  Jose Abreu, Brett Lawrie, Ian Desmond and Todd Frazier all in one infield.  Not bad.  I see potential for both sides.  Again, Red Sox-Rangers could also be debatable, I just believe the Sox have a slight edge in the match-up and will simply win 3-2 in the ALDS.  Besides that, I think I agree with my original instinct.  What do you think?

MLB Awards

Now its time to make my predictions for some MLB Awards in 2016.

AL MVP

Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays

Jose Bautista
Jose Bautista, 2016 Projected AL MVP

This is just going to make Bautista way more valuable.  Well, what’s my case?  Bautista was injured for a good amount of 2015, and played through some of it.  He had unsatisfactory results for much of the season.  But 2016 is the year for Jose Bautista to bounce back.  He didn’t have terrible results last year, but he definitely has room for improvement.  When he gets heated up, he reaches MVP level.

 

Honorable Mentions

Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, Michael Brantley, Carlos Beltran, Xander Bogaerts

 

NL MVP

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals

Bryce Harper, 2016 Projected NL MVP

I almost considered Joey Votto for MVP, but I just think that his team won’t support his relevance well enough.  But Harper, he’s ready to dominate.  Harper is fresh off a breakout season, and the 23-year old superstar is ready for another one.  I also have him winning a very special award, which I’ll surprise you with at the end.

 

Honorable Mentions

Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Heyward

 

AL Cy Young Award

David Price, Red Sox

... David Price ‘Going To Get Even Better’ With Red Sox | Boston Red
David Price, 2016 Projected AL Cy Young Winner

Price has a seven year deal with the Red Sox, so he’s pressured to do amazing.  Besides, there aren’t many other good choices.  Cole Hamels, maybe Dallas Keuchel.  Guys like that don’t match up to Price at his best, which he wasn’t last year.  I don’t think Detroit was the right fit for Price.  Boston or Toronto, that’s another story.  Price is ready to dominate this year.

 

Honorable Mentions

Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Chris Archer, Yu Darvish

 

NL Cy Young Award

James Shields, Padres

james shields padres
James Shields, 2016 Projected NL Cy Young Winner

You might say Jake Arrieta, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw will win the NL Cy Young, but where’s the love for James Shields?  Especially if the Padres have their long-awaited breakout year, Shields will be a legitimate competitor for the Cy Young.  He put up stellar stats for the Royals, he just hasn’t really fit in to the Padres’ system, but I think he’s found a spot as their ace.  He is ready to go back to all star form after only a subpar 2015.

Honorable Mentions

Zack Greinke, Kenta Maeda, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw

 

AL Rookie Of The Year

Byron Buxton, OF, Twins

Byron Buxton’s game-changing speed will be a vital asset to the ...
Byron Buxton, 2016 Projected AL Rookie Of The Year

I’m not as big of a believer in Buxton as most people, but look at the other options in the AL.  Byung-Ho Park is typically someone who would be too old to typically be a ro0kie.  But Buxton really is a prospect, he’s a typical rookie, he plays like a young rookie.  He’s actually one of the best at it in the AL, and I admire that.  Plus, I have some serious issues underrating Buxton.

Honorable Mentions

Byung-Ho Park, Sean Nolin, Blake Snell, Gary Sanchez, Dylan Bundy

NL Rookie Of The Year

Corey Seager, SS/3B, Dodgers

Corey Seager will bat third in his first postseason game. (Hans ...
Corey Seager, 2016 Projected NL Rookie Of The Year

Unlike Buxton, I see off the charts potential for this guy.  He’s the younger brother of a star third baseman in the league, and he proved himself byputting up great numbers while playing in the majors for the end of last season.  There has been so much hype for this kid and I believe it.  If there was one Rookie Of The Year for all of the MLB, it would be Seager all the way.

 

Honorable Mentions

Steven Matz, Tyler Glasnow, Trayce Thompson, Jose Peraza

 

AL Comeback Player Of The Year

Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers

Yu Darvish threw bullpen session yesterday - iFreePress iFreePress
Yu Darvish, 2016 Projected AL Comeback Player Of The Year

Darvish has spent nearly two full seasons on the DL.  Two years before even that, he was a great new MLB pitcher fresh out of Japan’s best bunch.  Darvish put up outstanding stats in 2012 and 2013. I know he’ll never be able to do that again, he’s too old and crippled, but can he at least return to All Star form?  I am a firm believer in Darvish and I’d like to see him try.

 

Honorable Mentions

Justin Verlander, Pablo Sandoval, Jarrod Parker,  Desmond Jennings

 

NL Comeback Player Of The Year

Matt Kemp, OF, Padres

Matt Kemp Trade Rumors: Latest News, Speculation on Padres of ...
Matt Kemp, 2016 Projected NL Comeback Player Of The Year

Kemp was a superstar with the Dodgers.  He’s old, but if he can do the same in San Diego, that would greatly benefit them.  Right now, he’s just a washed up outfielder forced to start.  But as the season progresses, I think he has potential to put up some all star stats.

 

 Honorable Mentions

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Jon Niese,  Travis Wood, Bartolo Colon

Triple Crown Award (NL)

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals

... Bryce Harper Edition - Daily Fantasy Baseball Strategy, The Fake
Bryce Harper, 2016 Projected NL Triple Crown Winner

This is the big surprise we’ve been waiting for.  Surprise, surprise, we have a Triple Crown winner!  Guess who it is?  Red hot, young Bryce Harper, already claiming the NL MVP.  Harper is fresh of a long-awaited breakout and is ready to become an all time great in the MLB.  A Triple Crown would really help his relevance, and I think he’s good enough to snag it at only age 23.

So that’s all for my MLB 2016 Preview.  Comment with your thoughts.